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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: Janet Davis, 04/1989
Senator Theatre
Inventory No.: B-2904
Date Listed: 8/24/1989
Location: 5904 York Road (MD 45), Baltimore, Baltimore City
Category: Building
Period/Date of Construction: 1939
Architect/Builder: Architect: John J. Zink; Builder: E. Eyring & Sons; Structural Engineer: Otto Kubitz
Description: The Senator Theatre, located in northern Baltimore, is a 1939 Art Deco movie theater with a circular stucco and glass block lobby fronting a brick auditorium. It is further distinguished by a projecting semi-circular lighted marquee topped by a neon-traced, free-standing letter sign. Curving brick one-story wings flank the entrance façade. The entrance façade features black and marbleized Vitrolite, aluminum zig-zag decorative bands, and fluted aluminum moldings around the doors and the ticket office. The glass block of the upper lobby is arranged in stepped pyramids illuminated by colored neon backlights. the interior of the lobby contains mural paintings, geometric decorative trim and panels, and a terrazzo floor. The concession area beyond the lobby is partially paneled with wood veneer. Opening off the concession area are the men’s and ladies’ lounges and restrooms, the manager’s office, and the staircase to the mezzanine promenade. The promenade is also paneled in wood veneer and has free-standing wood veneer columns. The projection room is entered off the promenade and is flanked by two private viewing rooms. The main auditorium is a large, open space without a balcony. Curtained walls converge toward the proscenium, which is embellished by molded composition panels in stylized floral designs. The walls bear light sconces in aluminum and glass geometric design. Light boxes at the ceiling create prismatic effects above the proscenium and along the sides of the central panel. The Senator Theatre retains most of its exterior details with little major alteration. The doorways have been enlarged and the aluminum moldings and those around the ticket office are replacements of the original trim. Some aluminum trim has been painted black. A brick cleaners shop was added to the north elevation in 1962. The interior of the theater has been altered primarily in terms of wall finishes in the auditorium and lounges. The former standing room area was enclosed to form the present concession area. The Senator Theatre’s overall integrity of historic character remains high and the alterations are reversible or restorable. Significance: The Senator Theatre is significant as the finest Art Deco movie theater still in use in Baltimore City and the most intact example in the city of this type of structure. It embodies the distinct characteristics of and architectural style which was not widely used for Baltimore buildings and it retains a high degree of integrity. Few Baltimore theaters of its era remain intact. Most have been destroyed or unsympathetically altered, leaving the Senator Theatre as the best example of its kind in the area. Built in 1939 as a suburban neighborhood movie house, the Senator Theatre later became a first run theater. Today it is one of only 11 local theaters or theater complexes still operating in Baltimore City. In continuous use since it was built, the theater has recently hosted local and world premieres of major motion pictures filmed in Baltimore. Architecturally, the building retains many significant exterior details including pigmented structural glass, glass block, neon signage, and decorative aluminum panels. The use of glass bock on the rounded front façade is the most extensive use of this material as a decorative element in any Baltimore structure. The interior has seen little alteration and features a round lobby with terrazzo floor, wood veneer paneling (now covered), and murals. Other significant interior features include original carpeting adjacent to the upper level private viewing rooms, portions of original lighting in the auditorium, round columns, and decorative plaster panels. It was designed by a notable local architect, John J. Zink, and operated by Durkee Enterprises, one of the largest and oldest movie circuits in Baltimore.


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